The wish to see a resolution of the grueling Arab-Israeli conflict is both understandable and perilous for journalists. During the Oslo period, wishes all too often stood in for facts, with a constant blind eye turned to the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate industry spawned by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
Who can say whether history might have been different had there not been such glaring journalistic neglect of hate-indoctrination by the PA, and its fundamental role played by such indoctrination in preparing Palestinian sons and daughters, mothers and fathers for suicide/murder?
Today too, in the midst of a so-called hudna, or time of relative quiet, the wish for an end of the conflict is reflected in an inclination to discount, overlook and minimize realities in the Palestinian world lest one dash cold water on the promise of peace.
But facts are stubborn things. Current reports by monitoring agencies of a diminution of PA media incitement are mixed with counter-reports of new and virulent invective. According to Israel's Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, there have been some broadcasts on television and radio conveying gentler, conciliatory themes of peace. But Palestinian Media Watch notes the introduction, in the same recent period, of a television segment including a song that accuses Israel of "torturing, mutilating and killing Palestinians in the name of God."
Cartoons in the official Al Hayat Al Jadeeda newspaper continue to offer readers images of ghoulish Israeli soldiers and, on April 10, a spider-like Star of David menacing the Muslim Dome of the Rock. This is the same publication that ran on its front page a color photo of the terrorist who took the lives of five Israelis in Tel Aviv on February 25 - and called him a martyr.
None of the monitoring groups report change in the key areas of religious and educational indoctrination. Mosques, which have been one of the worst channels of venom against Jews and Israel, continue to incite, most recently stoking fears that Jewish radicals would attack Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount. The incendiary sermons were in turn aired on PA television. The extensive official Israeli measures taken to protect Muslim shrines and Muslim lives were entirely unmentioned.
Likewise Palestinian schoolbooks remain a vehicle for teaching that Israel is illegitimate and will rightly to be replaced by Palestine. No map in any book identifies the state of Israel within any boundary. Only Palestine appears, encompassing all of Israel, while Israel's cities, geographic sites and water resources are said to be features of Palestine.
Can anyone doubt that when children are taught such things for a dozen impressionable years there is a grave effect? When the hatred is amplified continually by television, radio, religious teaching, political leaders, summer camps, public rallies and neighborhood posters, what other outcome could be expected than the rejection of peaceful accommodation with Israel?
On April 16, WAFA, the PLO News Agency, issued a story claiming Israel had installed what it termed a "radial spy machine at Rafah border point."
According to WAFA, the screening device would cause "horrible side affects on their health (sic)." Doctor Joma'a al-Saqa from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza warned that the device "may cause a very dangerous diseases Thrombocytopenic, Sterility, Congenital anomalies, Cancer, Leukemia and Mental retardation (sic)."
A day later, having been challenged about its ludicrous claims regarding a device that is not, in fact, a dangerous X-ray apparatus, WAFA modified its story to denounce Israel instead for employing "the controversial naked spy machine" that supposedly violates the modesty of individuals passing through Rafah.
Israel has regularly been subjected to bizarre allegations of damaging Palestinian health, including charges of distributing poisoned candy, poisoning water, using poison gas and depleted uranium, and so on. Such absurd charges are in keeping with the dark anti-Israel mythologies of the schools, mosques, media and political class — and all explain in major part the failure of the Palestinian body politic to reconcile itself to Israel's existence.
The information about inculcating hatred is readily available to journalists. They could, for instance, explore the impact of textbooks on children by simply asking some of Palestinian students what they've learned with regard to Judaism and Israel's right to exist.
The media's record of covering Oslo was deplorable, and there is as yet little sign of lessons learned.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post.